Joe McMahon > WWW-Mechanize-Pluggable > WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable::Design

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NAME ^

WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable::Design - the architecture of WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable

DESCRIPTION ^

This document describes WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable's design and explains how it works, including plugins and how they interact with the base module.

BASICS ^

Why write this module?

Previous to the creation of WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable, anyone who wanted an extended version of WWW::Mechanize had to subclass it to add new features.

This in itself is not a bad thing: many modules have been created to address specific behaviors that WWW::Mechanize doesn't support itself:

WWW::Mechanize::Sleepy - pauses between requests
WWW::Mechanize::Cached - caches requests
WWW::Mechanize::Timed - times requests

And so on. The problem is, what if you want both the Sleepy behavior and the Cached behavior simultaneously? The answer is you can't do that unless you write a module which inherits from both.

This approach isn't viable in the long term because the number of possible combinations of behavior grows too fast. So how can we address this problem?

Enter Module::Pluggable

A partial solution comes from Module::Pluggable. This module allows you to create plugins - specially-named packages, installed just like regular modules. A base package, which uses Module::Pluggable, can then automatically search for and load extra functions via these plugin classes.

This solves the problem of extending a base class - if you're the one who controls the base class's source code.

WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable - plugins with a twist

The simplest way to solve the problem is just to create a subclass of the class you want to add plugin functionality to - in our case, WWW::Mechanize - and then write plugins. And as long as all you're doing is just adding new functions, you're in good shape.

But what if you want to change the way something functions, rather than just add something new? You have a problem, because a plugin can't do that - or rather, two different plugins that want to alter the same base-class method can't do so without knowing about each other. This might seem like a good-enough solution, but it has the same problem as the "subclass the subclasses" approach: you have a combinatorial explosion of checks that have to be made every time a new module that wants to alter the same base-class method gets into the act.

Proxy and Decorator

The approach used in WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable is to combine the proxy pattern (one class intercepts all the calls for another and then passes them on) and the decorator pattern (one class instantiates another, then exposes methods matching all of the second classes methods, with its own code inserted before and/or after the calls to the contained class).

Perl provides us with very flexible ways to deal with this process.

AUTOLOAD

We use AUTOLOAD to "catch" all the calls to the class. We actually implement very little in WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable; only enough to be able to create the base object and its contained WWW::Mechanize object.

To decorate, we add a hash of pre-hook and post-hook lists. These are subroutines to be called before (pre-hook) and after (post-hook) the base-class methods. Now it's possible to alter either the behavior of a given method, or to feed it different parameters "behind the back" of the main program.

PLUGIN STRUCTURE ^

We'll speak specifically about WWW::Mechanize::Pluggable here; wo hope to extract the "pluggability" into a completely separate module in the very near future, allowing the creation of ::Pluggable versions of any module you please.

The Pluggable interface

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